As I said in response to an earlier question, I am very conscious of the need for a significant improvement in pay and working conditions in the early learning and childcare sector. The level of pay, which averaged €12.60 per hour in 2021, does not in any way reflect the importance of the work or the skill and expertise required. The consequence of low pay, the high turnover of staff, undermines the quality of children's early learning experiences.
My Department has, over a number of years, provided a range of financial supports to providers in the sector to support them to improve pay and conditions. Measures that are still in place include higher rates of capitation payments to services with graduate room leaders in the early childhood care and education, ECCE, programme and to services employing qualified inclusion co-ordinators.
In December 2020, I began a process which examined the possibility of regulating pay and conditions through the use of a joint labour committee. That committee has now been established and started meeting in December of last year. To support the joint labour committee in drawing up an employment regulation order to determine minimum rates of pay, I secured a very significant additional investment in budget 2022, fulfilling a key commitment in the programme for Government. There is €69 million available this year and €207 million available in a full year. I hope to see the joint labour committee bring forward its recommendations in the coming months. This would allow us to implement the new pay scales in September of this year.
I recognise that, this week two years ago, early learning educators, providers and parents were out on the streets protesting conditions in this sector. That protest is being marked tomorrow with a day of recognition and hope. During the Covid pandemic, as a country, we have gained a better appreciation of the great work done by childcare professionals and providers in education for our children and keeping them safe.
There is much more to be done in this area, but I believe that the measures and policies undertaken by the Government over the past 18 months show our commitment to supporting this essential sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also in future.